Bahçeli targets journalists amid row over MHP-linked attacks on opposition figures

(Article corrected for Özdağ's status as politician)

The leader of Turkey’s far right Nationalist Movement Party (MHP) on Monday targeted three columnists from moderate conservative Karar newspaper, labelling them as "hired pens'' while warning them against speaking out against the MHP.

Columnists Taha Akyol, Yıldıray Oğur and Elif Çakir should not take the MHP lightly, Devlet Bahçel said on Twitter, noting that the three had fallen into the very well "they had dug up.’’

The remarks from the Bahçeli, the junior coalition partner to the ruling Justice and Development Party (AKP), arrive amid a string of criticisms levelled at the MHP by the Karar columnists.

Oğur, in his column on Monday, said the MHP employed pragmatism with the AKP. 

Should the AKP-MHP alliance end, Oğur said, the latter will likely voice criticism of moves by AKP leader and President Erdoğan, which undermine nationalism, such as the Kurdish peace process.

Meanwhile, Akyol and Çakır, on Karar TV had criticised Bahçeli’s silence against a physical attack being linked to the MHP on an opposition Future Party politician.

Selçuk Özdağ was attacked by a group of five people as he climbed into his car in capital Ankara on Jan. 15. Two people have been detained over the incident that is being linked to MHP supporters.

In a separate attack on the same day, an opposition journalist with Yeniçağ daily, Orhan Uğuroğlu, was hospitalised. Four people were briefly detained over the attack also attributed to supporters of the far-right party.

The AKP and the MHP have come under criticism for failing to condemn the attack on the opposition.

Özdağ has said that President Erdoğan called him, but failed to condemn the attack, only asking him if the incident had taken place in Ankara.

Birgün newspaper on Monday reported that one of the detained suspects in the attack was an employee of a MHP municipality in Ankara.

Later on Monday, the Future Party reacted to Bahçeli’s remarks targeting the Karar journalists, with founding member İbrahim Turan saying that everyone on the side of "democracy, the law and freedoms,’’ stood with the three.

The leader of opposition DEVA Party and former deputy Prime Minister Ali Babacan rebuked Bahçeli over his remarks, saying the were not "befitting of a coalition partner.’’

"The job of politicians is not to incite anger. You cannot silence the media with your threats,’’ Babacan said on Twitter.